Will Traditional Launch Services Suit the Needs of Space Force?
Article by Sandra Erwin November 24, 2020 (spacenews.com)
• The Space and Missile Systems Center Launch Enterprise (under the auspices of the US Space Force) issued a request for information on November 10th asking companies to submit details on planned investments that would support space mobility and logistics by January 15th. The director of Space Force’s launch enterprise, Col. Robert Bongiovi, said his office is trying to gain better insight into the next wave of space innovation and how the military could acquire those capabilities.
• How the Pentagon buys launch services in the future could change as the military considers emerging technologies and services. A future space ecosystem would include satellite refueling and servicing, space vehicles, space manufacturing, and space tugs that relocate satellites. This is part of a crucial space infrastructure that the military terms “space mobility and logistics”.
• One example of the future use of sub-orbital space vehicles to transport cargo and personnel to distant locations on Earth. Senior officials in acquisitions for the Department of the Air Force have shown interest in such point-to-point delivery. But Space Force and launch enterprises currently have no plans to change the structure of its national security launch program, which relies on SpaceX and United Launch Alliance to fly military and intelligence community satellites to multiple orbits, said Col. Bongiovi.
• So the Space Command will wait and see how new technologies and new uses for commercial launch systems will play out in the private sector before the Pentagon makes any financial commitments.. “I think we will watch it closely to see how effective it becomes on the commercial side,” said Lt. Gen. John Shaw.
• In the meantime, Space Force is studying the market to establish the requirements of launch providers in the next national security space launch competition in 2024. “We have to have honest conversations with industry on where they’re going and why,” said Col. Bongiovi. “We also have to talk to our satellite providers and understand the demand.”
WASHINGTON — SpaceX and United Launch Alliance were selected as U.S. national security launch providers
based on their ability to deliver spacecraft to specific Earth orbits. How the Pentagon buys launch services in the future could change, however, as the military considers using emerging technologies and services known as “space mobility and logistics.”
Col. Robert Bongiovi, the director of the Space Force’s launch enterprise, said his office is trying to gain better insight into the next wave of space innovation and figure out how the military could acquire those capabilities.
The Space and Missile Systems Center Launch Enterprise issued a request for information Nov. 10 asking companies to submit by Jan. 15 details on planned investments that would support space mobility and logistics.
Space tugs that move satellites to different orbits or within orbits, satellite refueling and servicing vehicles, and in-space manufacturing are some of the capabilities mentioned in the request for information as examples of the future space ecosystem.
These are all new space missions and capabilities that the military doesn’t currently do. Bongiovi said last week at a Mitchell Institute event that the information submitted by the industry will help the Space Force decide on future investments in space access, mobility and logistics.
The Space Force in its vision document mentions space mobility and logistics as “core competencies” of the service.
Bongiovi said there are currently no plans to change the structure of the national security launch program, which relies on two launch providers to fly military and intelligence community satellites to multiple orbits. But he said the Space Force is doing market research that could inform the requirements for launch providers for the next national security space launch competition in 2024. “Industry has a view of the future that is very expansive,” he said.
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